Movie Critique - Dark Passage

For review of all movies starring Humphrey Bogart, go here.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Every frame takes an unexpected turn keeping the viewers guessing. A solid off-beat film noir that has been forgotten, but there is nothing to forgettable about it. Enjoy if you get a chance to watch it. 

Dark Passage is a 1947 American mystery thriller starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett and Agnes Moorehead among others. Directed by Delmer Daves, Produced by Jerry Wald, the film is based on 1946 novel of the same name by David Goodis. Director Daves gave the screenplay as well.

Vincent Parry (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart), a convicted murderer escapes from prison, and tries to prove his innocence. However his past and suspected people from his life keep coming in between. He undergoes plastic surgery, takes help of Irene Jansen (portrayed by Lauren Bacall), and searches for clues despite the hurdles.

This is the third of the four films that Bogart and Bacall did together. The other three being 1944 To Have and Have Not; 1946 The Big Sleep; and 1948 Key Largo.

Oher unique feature of the film is that for at least an hour of the film it is shown subjectively from the male lead, Vincent Parry's, perspective, without him being revealed at all. He is not shown full-frontal until after the healing from plastic surgery, except one dark front face scene in the cab where we see him in silhouette only. A similar technique had been earlier used in Robert Montgomery's 1946 Lady in the Lake. 

The opening shots of prison beak were reused from the 1937 drama film San Quentin. Bogart uses a full hairpiece in this film on account of his illness, alopecia areata. Bogart also underwent plastic surgery in the 1937 American crime drama film Dead End.

The chemistry between Bogart and Bacall is soft and exciting at the same time. The plot has a few holes but that is common with any of these kind of films. Yet it is tight despite the holes. Although the film wasn’t a huge success.

Bruce Bennett with a very brief appearance as Bob, Irene's ex-boyfriend, is sweet and charming. Something he acts similarly in most of his roles I believe. I saw him as a sweet and absent minded scientist in the 1945 film noir Danger Signal and he does a similar kind of acting there too.

As for the femme fatale Madge Rapf portrayed by Agnes Moorehead, I wonder why Agnes didn’t get the recognition as needed. She did an excellent job of a bitter and twisted girl friend who if she doesn’t get someone, she wont allow that person to belong to anyone. In fact, she outshines the lead cast effectively.

The theme song in the film, "Too Marvelous for Words", was first introduced in the 1937 film Ready, Willing and Able sung by Ross Alexander. In that film Ruby Keeler dances on the keys of a giant typewriter to that song.

This reminded me of a Hindi Indian language song that has the dancing leads - Shashi Kapoor and Helen - dancing on a typewriter. The song is from the 1970 film Bombay Talkie and titled "Typewriter Tip Tip Tip Tip Karta Hai". It was Sung by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar; Music composed by Shankar-Jaikishan; and Lyrics penned by Hasrat Jaipuri. I remember posting about it a long time ago in one of my blog posts. And here is a snippet from that song

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the entire song anywhere. But I also found another video that has a medley of both English and Hindi songs.

Despite it not being a successful movie, I liked the way the filmmakers showed the plot from first person's perspective for at least 45 minutes of the film without actually showing the person. Every frame takes an unexpected turn keeping the viewers guessing. A solid off-beat film noir that has been forgotten, but there is nothing to forgettable about it. Enjoy if you get a chance to watch it. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. A couple of cameo appearances in the film - Dane Clark's voice on radio announcing Vincent Parry's escape; Kenneth MacDonald's photo is used as Vincent's photo before his face surgery; Director Daves photo is shown as Irene Jansen's father in her scrapbook.

b. Douglas Kennedy plays the role of cop named Kennedy in the film. Interesting that he didn’t get a new name. :P

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. At the beginning of the film, the truck driving away from the prison has several barrels with one solo barrel on the tailgate. Between shots, the barrel is missing before it reappears on the final shot of the truck.

b. The radio announcement of Vincent's escape from prison quotes his height as 5ft 10 inches. The same thing is shown in the paper as well and later when Kennedy describes the changed Vincent on phone. Bogart was only 5ft 8 inches. 

c. The plastic surgeon tells that he would do surgery around the cheeks, mouth and eyes but leave the nose alone, However when Vincent is shown with bandages, his nose is covered and the skin around the eyes remain untouched.

d. After Vincent's bandages are removed, we don’t see any scars, bruises or swelling that normally would result because of plastic surgery.

e. In the diner where Vincent sits down to eat, the sign has dessert mis-spelled.


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